In The Revenant, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Hugh Glass learns that revenge is in God’s hands and not his. In this episode of the Finding Christ in Cinema podcast, we discuss that theme and critically examine whether or not the film really affirms that message.
For your convenience you will find each podcast segment at the time referenced below:
- 00:00:00 – Introduction
- 00:03:26 – Movie Discussion
- 00:34:25 – Christian Themes in The Revenant
- 01:07:14 – Listener Challenge and Feedback
- 01:17:13 – Well-mannered Frivolity
- 01:21:20 – Lightning Round
- 01:24:58 – Upcoming
Revenge is in the Hands of the Revenant…Right?
In case anyone did not know before this film, a revenant is someone who was once thought to be dead but has returned – usually with the desire to exact revenge on the man or group that “killed” him. Such is the premise for our present story. After being all but slaughtered to death by a grizzly bear, frontiersman Hugh Glass has been left for dead by his fellow fur trappers. Furthermore, the man who was given the responsibility of overseeing Glass’s peaceful transition from this life to the next takes it upon himself to lighten his own burden by killing Glass’s son Hawk and then leaving the broken and crippled Glass to fend for himself in the North American wilderness.
The film then becomes about Glass’s journey to avenge his son’s wrongful murder, but as aesthetically beautiful as that journey is, one has to wonder if the film resolves in a manner that supports that idea or if it contradicts itself. The idea that “revenge is in God’s hands” comes from the lone Pawnee Indian that Glass encounters while still in the wilderness. This one Pawnee, whose whole family was slain by the rival Sioux Indians, has every right to hunt down those that killed his loved one. He does not pursue that option, however, and instead decides to head south to find more Pawnee. The Pawnee is in the same boat as Hugh Glass, but he’s not sailing toward revenge and death; instead, he’s sailing toward a new life. Unfortunately, that Pawnee is later killed, but the idea sticks with Glass for the rest of the film.
Fast forward to the climactic showdown between Glass and Fitzgerald in which Glass takes his chance to let that idea control his actions. With Glass’s hands around his neck, Fitzgerald smugly reminds Glass that he can’t do anything to bring his son back. Just after Fitzgerald says that awful reminder, Glass sees a small caravan of Pawnee about twenty yards away on the riverside. Glass then remembers the sage advice he received from the prophet in the wilderness and then releases Fitzgerald into the river only to be caught by the Pawnee and scalped once more – only this time, fatally.
The problem with the resolution is that Hugh Glass knew that the Pawnee would kill Fitzgerald as soon as he floated by them. It’s almost as if Glass wanted the Pawnee to kill him so he wouldn’t have to. There is then no difference in the Pawnee killing Fitzgerald and Glass himself killing Fitzgerald, and yet Glass’s honor is restored in the end because he left revenge in God’s hands. On the surface, then, this would appear to be a contradiction which would then muddle the message, unravel the ultimate impact of the film, and render the past two-and-a-half-hours a waste of time.
But when one considers the phrase “vengeance is mine” more critically, the contradiction is made void. Because throughout the Bible, God actually works through foreign armies to exact vengeance on those children of His that betray Him. But as for His own people – including Israelites in the Old Testament, disciples in the New Testament, and Christians in our present day – God tells us to forgive each other, love each other, and leave the vengeance to Him.
Finding Christ In Cinema is the show where we discover Christian themes in movies past and present. Join us and together we’ll dig deeper into the silver-screen classics of yesteryear as well as the box-office hits of today. Brought to you by the Great Commission Transmission Network. View the complete show notes, including links to articles discussed, by clicking here.
Use the audio player at the top of this article to listen to the podcast, or use the links below for other convenient ways to hear FCC.